Category Archives: Recipes From The Garden

How To Make Your Own Kombucha!

Kombucha is one of the hottest probiotic beverages on the market today. You can buy kombucha in just about every health food store and co-op in the country. But you’re going to pay a pretty penny for each 8 ounce glass you drink.

Home-brewed kombucha is easy and inexpensive to make

Probiotic kombucha tastes great.

At a local food exchange, where kombucha is on tap, one glass is $4.00.

All kombucha is is a fermented black tea flavored with organic juices or fruits of your choice and maybe even a few spices. So, when I recovered from sticker shock, I decided to calculate how much a glass of home-brewed kombucha would run.

Would you believe home-brewed kombucha costs about $.31 a glass? Yep, I said 31 cents a glass and that’s using pure cane sugar and premium Sada Chai from the Tao of Tea company.

You can make 8 glasses of kombucha, at home, for the cost of a single glass at the store. That’s why I started making my own kombucha!

Once you have your SCOBY (Symbiotic Combination of Bacteria and Yeast that you see here) all you need to buy again will be tea and sugar. SCOBYs look a bit like you might imagine the blob looked like in the 1950’s sci-fi thriller. But don’t let the SCOBY’s looks put you off.

This healthy SCOBY is making kombucha.

Healthy SCOBYs look a bit like jelly fish.

This is a powerful and living organism that eats the sugar you put in your black tea, fermenting it and giving you 8 glasses of kombucha for about $2.50.

And she does it in 7 to 10 days!

How do you get started?

It looks a bit daunting but if you follow the directions, it is easy and your kombucha will be delicious!

  1. Bring a gallon of water to a boil, then turn off the heat and immediately add 4 Tablespoons of loose tea and 1 cup of organic cane sugar.  Cover the pot with a lid and let the tea cool to room temperature. If it’s too warm (anything approaching 90°) it will kill the SCOBY.
  2. When the tea is room temperature (check this with a thermometer) strain out the tea leaves, and pour the liquid into your glass or ceramic gallon container. Add your SCOBY and 1-2 cups of kombucha starter liquid it shipped in. NOTE: this is for the first batch you make.  The batches thereafter, just pour off and bottle all but 2 cups of kombucha then pour the fresh tea right into the gallon jar with your SCOBY .

    SCOBY fermenting tea to make kombucha.

    Leave room at the top for your SCOBY to grow.

  3. Cover the container with a clean cloth, kitchen towel, or handkerchief kept in place with a rubber band.  Place the jar in a warm spot (I put mine in the oven with the oven light on) that is out of direct sunlight and where it won’t be disturbed or moved.Make sure that the cloth or towel is breathable but the weave is tight enough to keep out fruit flies, gnats, and other undesirables.Your SCOBY may sink or float on the top, both are okay.  In 2-3 days, you may see a translucent jelly like mass floating on the top of your tea.  This is a baby SCOBY beginning to form.  Leave it undisturbed so that it can grow properly.
  4. Taste your kombucha 7 or 8 days after starting it using a straw inserted down the side of the SCOBY, not through it. Ideally, kombucha should have a slightly sharp and acidic bite. How long it takes to make a batch depends on the temperature of your home and how sweet or sour you’d like it to be.  Most batches will be ready in 7-10 days.  The longer it brews, the sharper it gets.
  5. Just before you think you will be bottling your kombucha, brew another batch of sweetened black tea so it will be cooled to room temperature and ready for you to use to start the next batch using the mother or baby SCOBY and the reserved kombucha.
  6. When your kombucha is ready, pour all but the last 2 cups into clean bottles or jars, straining it as you pour to catch any tiny SCOBYs that may be starting.  Leave the mother SCOBY in the original jar while you bottle your batch. NOTE:  keeping the mother SCOBY in the original jar minimizes contact and automatically reserves the 1-2 cups of starter liquid you need for your next batch.
  7. If you have a baby SCOBY growing with the mother and you want to separate them, now is the time.  You can start a second gallon of kombucha going with the new baby or give it to a friend so they can home-brew.
  8. Start your next batch by just pouring the room temperature black tea and sugar mixture you’ve already prepared over the SCOBY and starter tea you left in the gallon jar, cover and start the brewing cycle again.

Kombucha will naturally have a slight fizziness.  To increase the carbonation and level of tartness, leave the bottled kombucha on a counter top for several days after bottling.  BURP the bottles to keep the pressure from building up and the brew from spurting out of the bottle when opened.  Keep bottles stored in a refrigerator once the brew is finished fermenting.

Once you get the rhythm – brew tea and cool it down, strain and drain kombucha into bottles for finishing, add tea to your SCOBY and start again – you’ll understand why I say it’s easy to home brew your own kombucha.

Important notes:
Always clean your hands, utensils, and anything that might touch your kombucha with hot water and distilled vinegar. Do not use soap, (especially antibacterial soap) as it may harm or kill the kombucha culture. Your kombucha is alive!  Make sure to handle it with care.

Only use lead-free glass and ceramic for fermenting. Kombucha will absorb toxins out of the container that it’s brewed in (much like how it pulls toxins out of our bodies).

SCOBYs have an unusual appearance, scent, and feel, but don’t let this discourage you! You’ll quickly grow accustomed to their odd appearance and will get used to handling them.

If the SCOBY grows mold, throw the liquid and SCOBY into the compost and begin with fresh materials.

One thing I didn’t mention is flavoring your home brew. There are any number of tasty additions including organic juice, fresh or dried fruit, berries, herbs, and spices for whatever flavor suits your mood.

And, next week, I will share some of my favorite kombucha recipes!

 

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How Easy Is Organic Gardening? Very!

Organic gardening is easy.

Organic gardening is easy to do.

I wrote Grow So Easy; Organic Gardening for the Rest of Us for a young woman who wanted to go organic but was sure it was just too hard to do.

I also wrote it because I remember being in exactly that same place almost 40 years ago.

Organic gardening was hard and organic gardeners were weirdos, people who lived on the fringe of “real” life.  But I was intrigued so I decided I needed more information. When I wanted to learn about organic gardening, all those years ago, there was no Internet (hard to believe, right?).

I’d never heard of Ruth Stout or Jerome I. Rodale.  Euell Gibbons wasn’t touting Grape Nuts, yet and Adele Davis had already been dismissed as a “nutrition nut.”  Jim Crockett (Crockett’s Victory Garden on PBS) hadn’t even shown up on television (yes, Virginia, we did have television back then)!

So, I had to start my search the old-fashioned way.  I got on my bike and went to the library.

Using the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature (oh god…I am a dinosaur), I searched for magazines to help me get started.  There weren’t many — a handful really — but I did find information and people to help pave my path to becoming an organic gardener.

Today, it’s a lot easier to find organic gardening resources.  Connect to the Internet, search for those terms and you will get more than 4 million links to sites that offer everything from tips to tools.

But beware, many of these so-called “resources” just want to sell you something. I think I had it easier (back in the stone age), to find one or two clear voices, crying in the gardening wilderness!

I learned a lot from these “old guys and gurus” of organic gardening. I want to share what I learned and launch your gardening careers fast and easy.  So, I’m going to start with this basic truth:

…organic gardening is as easy as you want to make it.  It’s all about what you want to grow.

Start by figuring out what you want to plant, how many plants you want to put in (based on how large your garden space is) and what works in your planting zone.

If you just want to get out there and get started…here are two staples in my garden that are easy to grow and don’t have many bugs that “bug” them.

I always have tomatoes – they’re a great vegetable to grow in a pot (if you don’t have enough room to garden or your dirt’s not ready yet) or a plot.  If you’re just starting, try to buy compact or “bush” plants.  They’re easier to handle and don’t grow nearly as tall as indeterminate varieties like Brandywine or Early Girl.

I always plant lettuce, too.  A bag of spring greens  in my grocery store costs $5.00 for 12 ounces.  Fifty two weeks of buying greens comes to just under $300.  You can raise enough for you and your significant other for less than $3.00 a year.  

You can buy seed and follow the directions on the packet to plant it.  Or your can buy small starts or plants and toss them in your dirt (in a pot or a plot).  All lettuce needs is dirt, water and a little sun.

And when it gets a bit too warm for lettuce and it starts to bolt (get tall and taste bitter), if you let it go to seed, you can plant a new crop in the fall for free!

One tip from someone whose motto is, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.” Start small and only plant those crops you want.

Since it’s already planting season just about everywhere in the United States, I want you to gather up your courage, grab your car keys and head out to a nursery near you to buy your first plants (time enough for seed starting next spring).

Dig a hole, water your transplants in and sit back and watch mother nature take over.  Need more help? Download my e-book. Free for Prime members and only $2.99….for everyone else.

 

How To Grow Potatoes

Most of you know that I have had my ups and downs trying to grow potatoes.
The outcome was not very good.  I couldn’t get a straight answer on where or how to plant. Once the potato eyes were in the ground, Wireworms and Colorado Potato Beetles joined together to make for tiny tubers and a potato growing nightmare.

So,when I read High Mowing Seeds post on growing potatoes 101 I knew I had to share.

I also think that Margaret Roach of A Way To Garden fame has a good tutorial fro growing your own spuds, too.

If you dream of growing your own spuds or want to be able to walk into your back yard and dig a few potatoes for the dinner table, High Mowing Seeds and Margaret Roach can help you get it done.

Remember, potatoes love being planted when it’s cool out so early spring is a great time to give this American favorite a try.

If you are successful, try dicing a few into this fabulous fish chowder – buttery rich and tasty. I married an Italian but my maiden name was Duffy.  If I know anything, I know some great recipes for cooking potatoes!

Fish Chowder

INGREDIENTS:
2 boneless fish fillets
2 thick cut bacon slices
2 T butter
1 leek, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
½ tsp dry mustard
1 lb potatoes, peeled & cubed
4 sprigs thyme
¼ c heavy cream
1 T minced chives

DIRECTIONS:
Place fish fillets and bacon slices in large pot and cover with 4 cups cold water.

Bring to simmer over medium high heat then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes or until fish is cooked.

Transfer fish to plate and let it cool then remove skin and flake into large pieces.

Continue to simmer bacon in broth until stock is reduced by half (2 cups).

Strain, discard bacon, add 2 to 3 cups of water and reserve poaching liquid.

Melt butter in large pot, add leeks and celery and cook 15 minutes until translucent.

 

Lee Reich Shares Seed Starting Tips & More

Lee Reich's farmden is organized and weed free.

Lee Reich’s spring garden

I love Lee Reich!

Dr. Reich (botanist, retired professor and incredible home gardener) lives on a “farmden” in New York state and is my go to guy for fruit growing, pruning and feeding blueberries, blackberries, apples and more.

In this lovely interview with Lee Reich, another of my favorite gardeners, Margaret Roach, formerly Martha Stewart’s garden guru and author of several beautiful books including the book that launched her blog A Way To Garden.

Get Lee Reich’s simple but very effective recipe for seed starting mix. Take a look at his planting tools – practical, some homemade and all well-used and well-loved.  And watch the two wonderful clips of Reich in his gardens.

Its snowing again here, today, but I am going to my basement, turning on my grow lights and playing in the dirt as I dream of April, May and June.

Happy Gardening, Gang.

 

 

Rancho Gordo Founder Spills the Beans

I love Steve Sando.

Actually, I love his beans.  Sando created, owns and runs Rancho Gordo, which is in my view, the premier vendor of heirloom beans.

Rancho Gordo bean recipes

Heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo

My first brush with Rancho Gordo came through Oprah Winfrey’s magazine, O.  It was a profile on the company, probably almost a decade ago that kicked off my love affair and I have bought Sando’s beans ever since!

In this podcast, Steve Sando shares his background, his path and how he let serendipity into his life and changed it forever.

This is a fabulous interview by Lisa Gansky, a self-acclaimed entrepreneur, social instigator, international speaker, and author, with a man who I admire and whose products I buy for myself, my daughter and my friends.

BTW – Steve Sando doesn’t just sell beans, he share his recipes, expertise and enthusiasm for growing, sourcing and eating heirloom beans!

Enjoy!

Open Apology to Modern Farmer Magazine

Did you ever make a decision, feel pretty righteous about it then realize you were wrong?  Totally wrong??  Could not be more wrong???

Modern Farmer Magazine

Modern Farmer is an amazing magazine!

That’s just what I did when I cancelled my newly acquired subscription to Modern Farmer.

I was feeling churlish; I subscribed weeks earlier but hadn’t received a copy yet.  And it’s just quarterly so, in hindsight, I thought it wasn’t worth the cost.  Wrong, dead wrong, could not be more completely wrong.

I got my first issue – #10 – Winter 2015-2016 and knew just how big a dolt I had been.

This magazine is worth every penny and then some.  I read it from cover to cover in a day and a half, tabbed up some things I wanted to research more and am rereading it right now (well not while I’m typing but rereading, yes).

I am not a farmer but I am an avid organic gardener. I raise all my own fruit (blueberries, blackberries, figs, cherries and the stray pear, apple and pluot). I grow my own vegetables and herbs and am building my own meadow in the back of our 2.3 acres.

So I loved reading the article on Seed Matters – some of the most amazing organic seed breeders and growers — and getting some recipes from their benefit dinner.

And I own a horse – have always loved horses – so I immediately read the cover article on harnessing the power of draft horses.

I enjoyed the article on growing hops and loved meeting “The Modern Farmers” through their profiles of small operations that are making a big difference in their neighborhoods.

So, with huge apologies to Modern Farmer, I went back to its site today and subscribed for 2 years.  (A formal, written letter of apology will be mailed to the Editor, tomorrow.)

I will be sharing this beautifully produced, beautifully written and heartfelt magazine with stunning photography, too, with my niece who has just bought 14 acres in upstate Pennsylvania with her guy. They plan on growing their food, raising animals for meat and sale, raising fish and living on their farm.

This magazine will just be one more tool they can use and enjoy.

BTW-my subscription also gives me access to the web site and all the articles, online.  A bargain….a beautiful bargain.

Grow A Healthy Gut in 2016 – Microbiome Resources For You!

Want to know how easy it will be to get healthy, lose weight, say good-bye to chronic complaints about digestion, headaches and other maladies and have a Happy New Year in 2016?

Read one book.  Make some changes to what you eat and start on the path to good health. That’s how easy it is.

2016 New Year of Health

Get healthy in 2016. It’s easy.

I sincerely wish I had found the book about 15 years ago when bladder cancer became out ticket to travel down the rabbit hole of so-called “health care.”

Surgeries (12), hospitalizations (52) and BCG therapy (5 courses of a form of bacterial Russian roulette that was supposed to kill the cancer cells) and up until just 3 months ago, my husband was just as unhealthy as he had been when the ride started.

For years, we had heard from his medical team that Pat’s problem was “leaky gut,” a diagnosis often delivered with a shrug and not one idea on how to change it.

So, what does our tale of woe have to do with getting healthy in 2016?
Everything.

In October, I bought Dr. David Perlmutter’s most recent book, Brain Maker, and I finally got a clear understanding of what leaky gut is and means and why it was critical to Pat’s health.

What I learned from a book (which was not, once mentioned by the cadre of specialists who have seen, treated and billed my poor husband) is that the intestinal lining – the largest mucosal surface in the body and the barrier between “the inside and outside” is exactly one single cell thick!

Bad news? If you have leaky gut it means your cell wall is permeable and you have a very serious health issue. Good news?  Leaky gut is manageable, dare one say reversible?

Not one of the idiots who had Pat in their care knew, mentioned or even touched on the criticality of this condition or the way to help fix it.  They just kept prescribing antibiotics – life-saving but also life-threatening – and sending him home.

After reading Dr. Perlmutter’s book, Brain Maker, I learned about the good bacteria that should be in the gut and those that can cause problems if they overtake the good bacteria.  I got a broad but enlightening introduction to the “second brain” and the fact that the gut often sends messages to the brain to make it act – not the other way around.

Everything I read influenced our next round of dietary changes. Dr. Perlmutter’s recipes made it easy to make the needed changes.  And suddenly things started improving for my husband.

Once I read Dr. Perlmutter’s book and implemented changes (see NOTE ON DINING below), I started doing some research on the microbiome.  This is a growing field and there is a tremendous amount of research going on under the covers on the second brain.

It appears that the world of medicine is about to change, radically and for the better. If you want more information here are some resources I recommend:

This TED talk lays a solid foundation for how our gut bacteria work and how they affect our health . Rob Knight opens the door in this TED talk then helps us walk right in by talking about how gut bacteria might be implicated in a raft of chronic health issues like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Celiac disease, obesity, allergies, and asthma.

If you want to know what’s going on in your microbiome – a snapshot if you will – here is the place to go. Visit this crowdsourced research project and get your gut bacteria analyzed for less than $100.

It’s all there, available for anyone who wants to get their health back.

After reading, listening and changing a few more things in our lives, for the first time in 15 years, Pat and I are able to manage his infections, lower his blood sugar and give him back his life.

One book, one person changed our lives forever and for the better!

Borrow it from the library, download it from Amazon, buy it.  Sign up for Dr. Perlmutter’s regular posts, videos and information and get healthy in 2016!

Happy New Year, everyone.  Here’s to your health.

NOTE ON DINING:  As I said earlier in this novella, what the book/doctors are saying on how to correct your microbiome may seem a bit draconian if you are just getting started.  Take it one bite at a time and you will get your health back.

By the time I read this book, we had already totally cut out ALL processed foods.  We ONLY eat organic, non-GMO foods – including meat, poultry and wild-harvested fish – and fruit and veggies I either raise or get at the local organic food exchange.  That has helped both of us lose over 50 pounds and really feel physically better but it didn’t move his blood sugars a whole lot nor did it cut down on his regular trips to the hospital.

Now, he and I both eat freshly made sauerkraut (I am on my 3rd batch and enjoy making it).  Also, instead of spending $7.50 for a pint at the local farmer’s market, I make a gallon + a pint for about $1.50! It’s cabbage with salt!!  Amazing and amazingly good.

We both drink kombucha which I make and bottle and are loving it!  Again, buy it in the health food store and pay $5.00 for 12 ounces.  Make it at home and it’s about 50 cents a glass.  We recently added duck eggs to our diets – 16% more protein and said to be better at creating a gut environment that is less conducive to the growth of cancer cells.

Simple changes to our diet and a bit of knowledge about how the gut works and how critical it is to overall health could have changed our lives and saved us emotional currency, time and thousands and thousands of dollars over the last decade and a half.

I urge you to explore the concept of microbiome and gut bacteria.  Just Google it and see how many diseases are actually being studied and in some cases reversed by getting good gut bacteria to outweigh the bad – autism, ALS, ADHD, Alzheimer’s and that’s just the A’s!